PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:58; Labor in the Lord is not Vain

06/14 1 Corinthians 15:58 Labor in the Lord is not Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150614_1cor15_58.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Today we finish 1 Corinthians 15 and look at verse 58. This is a very encouraging verse. This verse is a command with a promise. It is a command to be something and to do something. It is a command of character and behavior. And it is character and behavior based on a promise, based on knowing something.

Character Commanded

How many of us want this kind of character to define us? What do people think of you? How do people describe you? When a friend is telling someone about you, what adjectives do they use to describe you? When you meet someone, and they say ‘oh, you’re so-and-so. I met your friend the other day. They said you were…’ What do you want to hear them say? Would they say you are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you hope that is what they would say?

This is a command of character. This is a command to be a certain kind of person. This should give us hope. Some might say, well, I’m just not that kind of person. That’s just not how I am. But according to this, you can change! You are not stuck! You can be different than you are. Your character is not a fixed entity that you were born with and can do nothing about. You can be better than you are. You can grow and learn and change, and Paul will tell us how.

Imperative follows Indicative

This is a command, a command to be a certain way, and it is a command based on a promise. It is a command based on truth. We find this sort of thing all over the Bible. You can observe this pattern in much of the teaching of the New Testament. When you find a command, look around to see what that command is built on. We can see that in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God says ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, he makes this statement:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6)

The commands are based on and rooted in a statement of truth. The imperative (or command) follows the indicative (or statement of fact). Another way to say this is that exhortation follows information. I am going to inform you of truth, which I believe will shape the way you live. We see this all the time in advertising. The little sidebar pops up on you screen that says ‘one rule for a flat tummy’ or ‘three foods that fight cancer; click here to find out more’. There is something you need to know, the information, the secret, that will change your behavior, so that you can attain the goal, the promise.

This verse begins with ‘therefore’. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we should look to see what it’s ‘there for’. This is the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. Paul is teaching truth to combat error that will shape behavior. Let’s look back over the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15 Outline

In verses 1-7 he reminds us of the gospel message, with an emphasis on the fact that the historical resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel message, evidenced by a substantial crowd of eyewitnesses.

In verses 8-11 Paul holds himself up as an eyewitness and an example of the power of resurrecting grace which produces a transformed life.

In 12-19; he points to the negative consequences for those who preach and those who believe if the resurrection were not historical.

In 20-28 he holds up Christ as the new representative of mankind who undoes what Adam did and brings resurrection where Adam brought death.

In verse 29 he argues for the incoherence of the practice of baptism if there is no resurrection.

In 30-32; he argues for the incoherence of Christian sacrifice and suffering if there is no resurrection.

Verses 33-34 we find another imperative demonstrating the negative consequences of unbelief in resurrection on a person’s morality. He warns them not to be deceived, and says that because the resurrection is true, you need to ‘wake up from your drunken stupor and stop sinning’

In verses 35-41 he answers objections to the natural implausibility of a resurrection with evidence of the power and creativity of God as seen in creation.

In 42-49 he comes back to the contrast between our representatives Adam and Christ; where we have borne the fallen image of Adam, we are destined to bear the image of our new representative, Christ.

In 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection transformation to enable us to participate in the kingdom of God.

In 54-57 he demonstrates the prophetic necessity of the resurrection.

And finally in verse 58 he gives concluding imperatives; because the resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact and our resurrection is a certain future event that God will bring about, we should live a certain way.

It matters what you believe. What you believe will impact the way you live. If you claim to believe something but there is no evidence of that belief working itself out in your character in everyday life, it is legitimate to question whether you truly believe what you claim.

Brothers, Beloved

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul addresses his readers as brothers. Earlier he addressed them as fools. Actually, in verse 35 he quotes the questions of ‘someone’ and he responds to that hypothetical ‘someone’ who asks those questions with ‘Fool!’ because those questions were motivated not by a desire to learn but by an effort to make belief in the resurrection look silly. They were the questions of the fool in Proverbs who says in his heart ‘there is no God’. But here he refers to his readers as brothers, siblings, not subordinates or underlings, but equals. And he calls them ‘my beloved’. We are dearly loved. This is a command, but it is a command clothed in gentleness and compassion. He genuinely cares about us and he communicates that to us. The command is rooted in love, a desire to bless, to do good to us, to help us to find joy and fulfillment.

Be Steadfast, Immovable

This word gives the idea of firmness, steadiness, being settled. Paul used this word in chapter 7 talking about the resolve of a single man who chooses not to marry.

1 Corinthians 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

This same word also shows up in Colossians 1 in a similar context to this one.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Interestingly the word for ‘shifting’ is the positive verb form of the negative adjective translated here ‘immovable’. It means to be unmovable, not moved from its place, firmly persistent. We are not to be moved from the hope of the gospel. We are to be firmly persistent in the good news.

This is the same idea that he expressed with different words at the beginning of this discussion on the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He began the discussion with an ‘if’. There is a danger of not remaining in the gospel, not holding fast the word. Now he concludes the section with a loving exhortation to be settled and unmovable.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

It seems the Corinthians were in danger of allowing the culture and the beliefs they were surrounded by to sweep them off their sure footing in gospel truth. They were wavering on the foundation truth of the bodily physical resurrection. Paul exhorts them to remain anchored and to stand fast on the truth that they had believed.

Abounding Always

This character, being steadfast, immovable results in action. A person of character acts in ways consistent with that character. A person whose foundation is firmly rooted in gospel truth will abound in the work of the Lord. They will super-abound. They will overflow. Not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. Beyond measure, abundantly. What do they super-abound in? What do they do? What is the work of the Lord?

The Work of the Lord

Most simply, the work of the Lord is the Lord’s work. It is what the Lord does. What is it that we see the Lord doing? What is it that he tells his followers to join him in doing? In Mark 1, Jesus said

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came from the the Father in order to preach the gospel of God, telling people to repent and believe the good news.

Jesus says in Mark 10:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to give his life a ransom. In Luke 19 Jesus tells us:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

The work Jesus came to do was to find and rescue lost people, to serve, to give his life, to proclaim the good news.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “I will build my church”. Jesus is all about building his church, one sinner at a time.

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? In John 6, Jesus encouraged people to seek not the temporary but the eternal. Some listening asked him a question:

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The work of God is to believe in Jesus. First things first. We must understand the simplicity of the good news. We must come to Jesus ourselves, with childlike faith. Trust in Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus for eternal life. Without this kind of relationship with Jesus, nothing else is possible. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if you have not come in simple dependence on him.

For a person who comes to Jesus in childlike faith, what is the work he invites us to join him in? In John 20:21, Jesus says to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Luke 24 and Acts 1 he calls them to be his witnesses, to testify of him and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk.24:47).

It seems clear that those who have been rescued by Jesus are to join him in his work of seeking and saving the lost by proclaiming his good news to everyone. Paul said in chapter 1 that “Christ… sent me… to preach the gospel” (1:17) and “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). In chapter 2 he said that we are “servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. …We are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (2:5-6, 9). In chapter 9 he says “you are my workmanship in the Lord (9:1). He says “we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12). He says “I have made myself a servant of all that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (9:19, 22-23). In chapter 10 he says “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” (10:33). In 14:12 he uses this word ‘super-abound’; “strive to excel (or super-abound) in building up the church”. He envisions an unbeliever entering the orderly worship service of the church and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (14:25). In chapter 16 he says:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

What is that work of the Lord other than joining him in seeking and saving the lost, proclaiming the good news, making disciples of all nations, building up his church?

Labor Not In Vain

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul changes the word in the last phrase. He said ‘the work of the Lord’ – whatever it is that you undertake to do, what you are occupied with, what you are busy about. Here he says ‘your labor’ – toil, trouble, pain, sorrow, weariness; it carries the idea of beating one’s breast with grief. This is intense labor united with trouble and sorrow. Paul described his ministry in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, … We are weak, … we [are held] in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Sometimes following Jesus is just plain hard. Doing what Jesus calls us to do, being people of character as Jesus calls us to be, is hard. It is labor, it brings trouble, it is wearisome, it is toil. Sometimes you just want to give up. Sometimes you wonder ‘is it worth it?’ This is where strong encouragement is necessary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the Lord your labor is not empty, worthless, vain. In what way could our labor be in vain, and how is it not in vain in the Lord? Paul started this chapter on the resurrection warning that the gospel should not be believed in vain. Paul says that the gospel saves unless we believe in vain. To believe the gospel in vain would be to believe it in such a way that it is worthless and does not accomplish its intended effect; it does not save. This, in the context, would mean shifting away from the hope of the gospel, not holding fast to the gospel message. In verse 2 Paul uses a synonym to the word translated ‘vain’ in verse 58. he uses the same word four times in this chapter and nowhere else in the book. In verse 10 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

God extended his grace to Saul, and it was not in vain. God’s grace always accomplishes what he sends it to do. God’s grace transformed an enemy of Jesus into the man who risked everything and went to the ends of the earth to make Christ known.

Paul uses this word twice in verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christ’s death accomplished nothing and preaching the gospel is worthless and believing the gospel is worthless. It is an empty and impotent message if it is not true. But because it is true, proclaiming the message of the cross is never a waste. Because God is in the business of seeking and saving the lost, of bring life to the dead, transforming sinners into saints, and because God chooses to do his work through the unlikely means of our weakness and foolishness so that he gets all the glory, we can be confident. Because these bodies will be raised and transformed, what we do in these bodies matters. As he said in

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

And

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

All glory to God. All honor and praise and thanks be to God.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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June 14, 2015 - Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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